Kids tired of ‘seeing death’

Eight-year-old Lanarol Huger (right) places a plastic flower on a cross memorial for a recent homicide in the Chicora area before he and other North Charleston youths marched through streets of the neighborhood Friday to protest violence.

Michael Mazyck had just left the Success Street home where he was hanging out one evening in April when someone walked up, “went crazy and started shooting,” he recalled.

After about eight gunshots rang out, the 15-year-old later learned, his friend “Marty” would be hospitalized with a leg wound. But his buddy “Tootie,” whom Mazyck had known most of his life, was shot in the head and fell dead on the porch.

As a resident of North Charleston’s Chicora neighborhood, Mazyck said he has become desensitized to gunfire. And death is something he no longer fears.

“Death isn’t even a thing to worry about anymore,” he said. “You can’t walk around here without seeing death.”

With nearly 80 children from the Freedom School, a summer program for at-risk youths, Mazyck donned an orange T-shirt and walked through the Chicora and Accabee communities Friday. The awareness march was organized in response to a spike in violent crime in North Charleston, where the number of homicides this year already has surpassed the total for 2011.

In the first half of 2012, the North Charleston Police Department handled seven homicides, compared with two during the same period last year, according to figures obtained this week by The Post and Courier. Five people were slain in all of 2011.

Thirty-eight people have suffered gunshot wounds citywide this year, compared with 19 from January through June last year.

Officials from the Police Department, who were quick to attribute last year’s low rates to their law enforcement measures, declined to comment on the tallies. Chief Jon Zumalt was out of town Friday and unavailable, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.

For Mayor Keith Summey, the statistics indicate a return to normal levels after a year of exceptionally low crime in 2011. After reporting nearly 30 murders in 2006 and 2007, the rate dropped to about a dozen annually.

“One of the problems we have is weapons on the street, and a lot of it still has to do with drugs,” Summey said. “The challenge is finding out where they’re both coming from.”

During Friday’s march, children used chalk to draw multicolor stick figures on the pavement of Success Street, representing victims of gun violence. Girls and boys, such as 13-year-old Shaquel Wright, who said he’s “tired of seeing people I know get shot,” marched on neighborhood streets, cheering “Stop the, stop the, stop the violence.”

The rally’s starting point was just across Spruill Avenue from where Mazyck’s friend, 21-year-old Adrian “Tootie” King, was killed.

The police have arrested Torren Eady, a 19-year-old resident of nearby Leland Street, on charges of murder and attempted murder. Investigators said Eady had been arguing with members of a group earlier in the evening when they helped his child’s mother retrieve the child from him.

North Charleston residents are not alone in their concern about crime trends.

The Charleston Police Department reported only one more homicide and 10 more aggravated assaults in the first half of 2012 compared with 2011’s start. As a whole, violent crimes in the city this year are on par with 2011.

But three of Charleston’s slayings came in June, including the shooting of 17-year-old Marley Lion, which remains unsolved. By the month’s end, city and neighborhood officials organized “Stand Up Charleston” to encourage crime reporting.

Erica Briggs, who coordinated the North Charleston march for the community development corporation Metanoia, said that as a resident of Success Street, she is accustomed to gunfire. She has taught her 7-year-old girl to duck and stay away from windows.

“We hear shooting, and I have to answer my daughter’s questions,” Briggs said. “I have to explain that someone died.”

In Chicora, Briggs said most residents are affected by violent crimes in some way. Deangelo Vandross, 23, who was shot in late May as he biked on Baxter Street, is a relative of a Metanoia staff member. The wound left Vandross paralyzed.

But Briggs isn’t swayed from living here.

“It doesn’t discourage me,” she said. “Violence is everywhere. It’s not just North Charleston.”

Bill Stanfield, CEO of Metanoia, said the violence stems from business that “these children aren’t caught up in.” He added that it’s linked to a “decent amount of cheap guns floating around,” such as the 9 mm pistol a 17-year-old boy is accused of pointing at a police officer on Gaynor Street before he was shot in late March.

In the Freedom School children, Stanfield hopes to plant a seed, he said, so that they never are tempted by the ways of the streets.

“The violence gets into the psyche of these kids,” he said. “They start to worry about their neighborhood. It gives their homes a bad rap, and that’s not what they want.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.